Sunday, 5 February 2017

RSPB Raptor Watch - Parkgate

Throughout the Winter an RSPB Raptor Watch has been taking place at the end of every month at Parkgate on the Wirral; aiming to show off the vast array of wildfowl, waders and especially the raptors that can be seen at this important estuarine site.

The habitat consists of acres upon acres of salt marsh which is an over wintering haven for many birds of prey. This winter the site has been home to at least two male hen harriers and up to three ringtails. Both the males and ringtails have been giving rather spectacular views, and people have travelled from far and wide to see them.

With so much awareness being raised about the persecution of this species, it is great to be able to show people these birds in a safe environment, before the birds head back to the troubled uplands to breed.

So last Sunday I attended the monthly raptor watch, volunteering with Dan Trottman for the RSPB. There was a steady turnout throughout the afternoon and it was fantastic to be able to show people the comings and goings of the natural world; things they my never have stopped to appreciate before. I am sure people may have noticed a bird sitting on the branch that sticks up in the middle of the salt marsh, but as most people don't tend to wander round with a scope, it is great to see their reaction when you zoom in on a merlin for them and they get to appreciate such a stunning raptor up close for the first time.

Of course, an event such as this is a great opportunity to talk to people about the on going persecution of raptors. I met a lady who had travelled from Burnley in the hope of seeing a hen harrier, so it was fantastic to be able to watch the bird with her and see her reaction. She worries about what is happening to this species, and as she has heard so much about them, she wanted to make the effort to see one. And then it was also fantastic to see the next generation coming through and enjoy watching George who could not contain his excitement every time a raptor was spotted. Sharing my scope with George and the lady from Burnley (and many other people), and sharing the experience of the raptors together was really special.

It's great when a family heading off for a walk with their dogs stop for a few minutes to see why you are there, and then they end up staying for 15 - 20 minutes to watch the birds and ask so many questions.

We were situated at the Old Baths car park.  This area of Parkgate sticks out into the marsh a bit more than the Donkey Stand (where the event used to be) allowing much closer views of the raptors on show. During our time observing from noon till dusk, we were privileged to see jaw dropping views of birds such as merlin, kestrel, marsh harrier, peregrine, buzzard.......

Marsh Harrier

.........and of course the awe inspiring hen harrier.

Wherever it may happen, the experience of being lucky enough to get a glimpse of a hen harrier is extraordinary; it literally leaves me shaking no matter how many times I may have seen one before. However, the first time is heart stopping, and this proved to be the truth when many people who had travelled far and wide, finally got their chance to see one of these birds. The atmosphere was incredible, a group of people all as excited and amazed as each other and all at a loss to understand how anyone in their right mind would want to shoot such a bird (or any bird for that matter).

This event was simply amazing, and I can't wait until next time. Anyone thinking about making the journey over next time.... Just Do It! It is truly an amazing day out.  The next raptor watch is on 26th February and I hope to see you there.

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday


  1. Great to hear so many people are getting a pleasure to see the Hen Harrier. I also think that it's equally important that non birders get to see them as it makes it easier to get more support for such a magnificent bird.

  2. Beautiful Hen Harrier you have caught there Findlay.

  3. Looks like a fantastic thing to do, Finn. I've put the date in my diary and hope to go, but it'll depend on the weather forecast and what else might want to grab my attention!

    Best wishes - - - Richard

  4. Belle histoire ;-)
    CĂ©line & Philippe

  5. Wow....I could have stayed there from dawn to dusk, just watching and the thrill of it all.

    Great post Findlay. I so admire what you do.

  6. Hi Findlay. It is good to hear about your continuing love of the Hen Harrier and your spreading of the message. Their continued persecution is a National Disgrace.

  7. Wonderful bird watching experience.

  8. not sure what the ringtails are. Mammals? It sure is great to help people out and share the experience. Great job Findlay. :)

  9. What a great day Findlay. I can't tell you how much I'd love to be able to come and look at the hen harriers. I hope we have young birders on this side of the big pond who are taking up the conservation banner the way you are doing.

  10. Might see you there Findlay. All being well I should be in Wales then.

  11. Nice post - always good to see raptors out and about.

    Looking at the bird in the heading of your Google profile made me smile - I was watching a Wryneck two days ago - in India!

    Cheers - Stewart M - New Delhi, India